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POPE STILL IN SRI LANKA:

WHAT MUSLIM LEADERS SAY ABOUT POPE FRANCIS VISIT


SUPPORT. Islam leaders Imam Ebra Moxsir (L) of the Imam Council of the Philippines and the PNP Chaplain Service, and Dean Julkipli Wadi (R) of the UP Institute of Islamic Studies express their support for Pope Francis. L photo by Rappler, R photo from UP IIS PHOTO COURTTSY OF RAPPLER.COM   Muslim groups across the country are looking forward to the visit of Pope Francis amid his message of peace and unity. In a statement, different representatives expressed hope the Catholic church’s leader would help boost the peace efforts as well as the realization of the Bangsamoro region. "May his words and actions influence more people, starting with the youth, to help build a culture of sustainable peace in the country and the whole world. May his compassion and peace building efforts across religions, including Islam, inspire our leaders to do what's best for our people, who have the right to live in peace," said Young Moro Professionals Network (YMPN) Chair Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman. READ FULL REPORT FROM ABS-CBN...

ALSO: Non-Catholics talk about Pope visit


MANILA, Philippines - Non-Catholic groups view the days of the papal visit as ordinary days, but some of them believe that the historic visit of Pope Francis will help renew the Filipinos’ faith in God. The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country, with more than 80 percent of its 100-million population belonging to the faith. Rob Guevarra, youth pastor and campus missionary of Victory Church-Malolos, said Pope Francis could inspire the Filipinos to seek God. “The pope is a good person to look up to and he’s a good inspiration to all of us but at the end of the day, I hope the pope points us back to who we should be looking to really, which is Jesus Christ,” Guevarra told The STAR in a recent interview. READ MORE...

ALSO Still in Sri Lanka: CBCP urged Pinoys -‘Welcome pope with open arms’


JAN 14 ---Pope Francis kisses a child upon his arrival in the seafront Galle Face Green for the canonization ceremony of Joseph Vaz, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015. Pope Francis pressed his call for Sri Lankan unity and reconciliation Wednesday with a Mass in Colombo to canonize the country's first saint and a visit to the war-ravaged north to pray at a shrine revered by both Sinhalese and Tamil faithful. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino) DAGUPAN CITY, Philippines – Not a raucous welcome, but one done “with all our hearts, with all our minds and with wide open arms” should greet Pope Francis when he arrives today to begin his much-awaited five-day visit, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said yesterday. With the public now generally aware of the pope’s itinerary, the faithful should “line the streets he will take, watch the papal vehicle pass by and be blessed by the sight of the pope passing our way going around the city,” Villegas said. “Bring out your family images of the saints and the Blessed Virgin. Bring out your Santo Niños and crucifixes. Bring out your heart in welcome!” he said. READ MORE...

ALSO: Muslim groups support Pope Francis’ visit, call for peace

P
ope Francis frees a dove in Madhu, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015. Pope Francis traveled to the jungles of war-torn northern Sri Lanka on Wednesday to show solidarity with the victims of the country's 25-year civil war and urge forgiveness and reconciliation "for all the evil which this land has known." (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, Pool) MANILA, Philippines - Muslim groups have expressed solidarity with Pope Francis in his call for peace, hoping that his words could inspire the country’s leaders to support the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that is seen to ensure peace and sustainable development in Mindanao. The Young Moro Professionals Network (YMPN) chaired by Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman said that like the Catholic faithful, they are looking forward to the papal visit starting today until Jan. 19. Usman explained that Pope Francis’ words and actions could influence people, starting with the youth, to help build a culture of sustainable peace in the country. READ MORE...

ALSO: Pope taking PH by storm Arrives today for four-day Pastoral visit; POPE FRANCIS IS LITERALLY TAKING THE PHILIPPINES BY STORM.


IN SRI LANKA REACHING OUT – Pope Francis extends his right arm out of the pope mobile to interact with the crowd that met him at the canonization mass of Joseph Vas at Galle Face Green in Colombo, Sri Lanka yesterday. This impulse to reach out to the faithful will most likely be duplicated many times over when the Holy Pontiff arrives today in the country for a five-day State and Apostolic Visit. (EPA)  Fifteen days into the new year, Pope Francis, the person next to Christ in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, is arriving at dusk today after a seven-hour flight from Sri Lanka for a four-day pastoral visit to mingle and comfort his flock wracked by conflict, tragedy, and calamity and bring Christ’s blessing of hope, peace, mercy, and compassion. At least 10 Catholic prelates will welcome Pope Francis, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said. Among them is CBCP vice president Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao. READ MORE...

ALSO MANILA STANDARD Editorial: Waiting for Francis


When the plane carrying Pope Francis touches down on the Manila runway, and when he drives through our streets and sees the millions trying to get a glimpse of him, he would get an idea of how much this predominantly Catholic nation has looked forward to his visit. And when the Supreme Pontiff goes to the typhoon-battered province island of Leyte and breaks bread with the survivors of the typhoon, hearing their stories and comforting them in their grief,he would have an idea of the comfort his presence would lend. Pope Francis has visited several countries in his nearly two-year stint as head of the Catholic Church, but he just may be surprised at the fervor with which Filipinos are greeting him today. It’s religion, of course. Francis is the human face of the Church to which millions of Filipinos belong. Amid the tribulations of Catholics’ individual lives, and in meeting the challenges of the future, the faithful can only do just that—have faith. READ FULL EDITORIAL...

ALSO TRIBUNE EDITORIAL: People’s Pope meets pa-epals


The frenzy has started even before Pope Francis lands in Manila today and the “pa-epal” activities are expected to compete with the official papal itinerary. Epal is of course Tagalog slang for media hounds who will exploit the global coverage of Pope Francis to get their mugs within the television frame for the longest time possible.Noynoy said the epals should choose another occasion to spend their energy and spare the Pope’s visit from their craving for publicity. The jostling to be part of the Malacañang guest list during the welcome ceremony and courtesy call on the morning of Jan. 16 is well known. The list remains hidden in the pocket of Palace mouthpiece Sonny Coloma for the apparent reason that it is packed with Aquino clan members and political allies. Noynoy is also grabbing every opportunity to be seen with the pontiff from the landing of his plane up to maybe his departure from the country. The meeting of dignitaries is usually not one of the functions of Noynoy since this is usually reserved for the Vice President or the Secretary of Foreign Affairs or other Cabinet heads to represent the President, although official state welcomes and honors are usually done in the Palace grounds. READ FULL EDITORIAL...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

What Muslim leaders say about Pope Francis visit


SUPPORT. Islam leaders Imam Ebra Moxsir (L) of the Imam Council of the Philippines and the PNP Chaplain Service, and Dean Julkipli Wadi (R) of the UP Institute of Islamic Studies express their support for Pope Francis. L photo by Rappler, R photo from UP IIS PHOTO COURTTSY OF RAPPLER.COM

MANILA, IANUARY 15, 2015 (ABS-CBN) Muslim groups across the country are looking forward to the visit of Pope Francis amid his message of peace and unity.

In a statement, different representatives expressed hope the Catholic church’s leader would help boost the peace efforts as well as the realization of the Bangsamoro region.

"May his words and actions influence more people, starting with the youth, to help build a culture of sustainable peace in the country and the whole world. May his compassion and peace building efforts across religions, including Islam, inspire our leaders to do what's best for our people, who have the right to live in peace," said Young Moro Professionals Network (YMPN) Chair Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman.

Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy president Amina Rasul asked Muslims to join in welcoming the Pope.

"Muslims in the Philippines should welcome the arrival of the Pope as we are in the last chapters of the peace process with the Moro liberation fronts of Mindanao. Pope Francis' call for peoples of all faiths to respect each other's religions and come together as a global community should resonate among the diverse peoples of Mindanao,” she said.

Professor Al-Rashid T. Jama, Chairperson of Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society-Western Mindanao Chapter, expressed hope that the Pope will speak about the Mindanao peace process. "Hope to be able to listen in his message for the issue above. We have a working pope, that's the positive thing."

Datu Alexander Mama-o, president of the Filipino Alliance for Integrity and Reform (FAIR Movement-Philippines) said, "We hope the Pope's visit will be followed by the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law in March. It will be a historic law that aims to unite all Filipinos [in reaching for] our shared dream for peace and economic development."

One Bangsamoro Movement's head Allan Balangi said, "We hope the visit of the Pope will touch the hearts and minds of Filipinos, especially our lawmakers, to urge them to work for peace in Mindanao through the proposed law. The Bangsamoro bill is for peace and unity of all Filipinos."

National Commission on Muslim Filipinos secretary and peace panel member Yasmin Busran-Lao said the agency joins the Catholic community in welcoming the Pope. "We stand in solidarity with Pope Francis' call to respect one another as brothers and sisters, to understand the suffering of others, to not abuse the name of God through violence, and to work together for justice and peace."

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the lead in the peace process, had said it will send representatives in welcoming the pope.


ABS-CBN

Non-Catholics talk about Pope visit By Alexis Romero, The Philippine Star Posted at 01/14/2015 8:22 AM | Updated as of 01/14/2015 8:28 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Non-Catholic groups view the days of the papal visit as ordinary days, but some of them believe that the historic visit of Pope Francis will help renew the Filipinos’ faith in God.

The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country, with more than 80 percent of its 100-million population belonging to the faith.

Rob Guevarra, youth pastor and campus missionary of Victory Church-Malolos, said Pope Francis could inspire the Filipinos to seek God.

“The pope is a good person to look up to and he’s a good inspiration to all of us but at the end of the day, I hope the pope points us back to who we should be looking to really, which is Jesus Christ,” Guevarra told The STAR in a recent interview.

“It’s good to be inspired by him, it’s good that we appreciate him and at the end of the day, I hope we see that he’s also a human being used by God to fulfill what God wants him to do,” he added.

Guevarra, whose religious group emphasizes the need for a strong relationship with God, said they would be praying for the pope, whom he said is “doing a good job.”

“Hopefully, it (papal visit) boosts the moral standards of Filipinos, that they would start standing up for what is right. Hopefully, the corrupt Catholic officials would be moved by the pope,” he added.

Rev. Eli Rivera, pastor of the Seed of Faith United Methodist Church, also expressed hope that the papal visit would help people remember God despite the trials that the country is facing.

“The Philippines has long been disunited, disoriented and there are several violent incidents happening here. Since the pope is pro-people and pro-unity, I hope the orientation of his messages will dwell on those themes,” Rivera said.

Rivera hopes the criminal incidents will go down and more Filipinos will go to church and read the Bible because of the visit.

Meanwhile, Hubert dela Cruz, bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ Latter-Day Saints, is wishing that the pope’s trip to the Philippines would help bring about social transformation.

“I hope the impact of his visit will be positive change in the Philippines. Our leaders are Catholics but what are they doing? They are stealing money, oppressing people. I hope they (corrupt leaders) feel that the Philippines is experiencing poverty because of them,” Cruz said.

“When the pope arrives, I hope their views will change, that they will realize that they are Christians who should follow the commandments of God, that as good Christians, they should the serve the people rather than seek to be served,” he added.

Jonathan Maglonzo, an elder of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, believes the visit of Pope Francis will bring about temporary peace.

“It’s like preparing for a visitor in one’s house. The areas that used to be dirty are now clean. Criminality will cease temporarily. They also respect the visit of the pope,” Maglonzo said.

Frederico Reyes, president of a local chapter of the Iglesia ng Diyos kay Cristo Hesus, expects the pope to spread the message of peace, love and unity just like any other religious preacher.

Some preachers, however, believe the interest sparked by the pontiff’s visit will just be temporary for some people.

“The faith of those who are indifferent towards God may be revived or awakened. Maaring ningas kugon lang (It may not last long),” said Noli Torres, pastor of God’s Family Bible Baptist Church.

“Once he’s gone, it (interest) will also be gone,” he added.

Dela Cruz agreed and compared Filipinos to ningas kugon or the flame of cogon grass that extinguishes easily.

“Filipinos are like ningas kugon,” he said. “They would believe what he is saying when he is in front of them but they would not do it afterwards.”

Guevarra, however, has a more optimistic view on the Filipinos’ faith. He expects “the pope to say something about loving people, more of really practicing the faith that we have.”

“And I’m hoping that he would say that yes, the Philippines is in the bad condition but we do apply our faith and love people,” he added. – With Leslie Anne Mahusay


PHILSTAR

‘Welcome pope with open arms’ By Eva Visperas and Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 15, 2015 - 12:00am 0 2 googleplus0 0


Pope Francis kisses a child upon his arrival in the seafront Galle Face Green for the canonization ceremony of Joseph Vaz, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015. Pope Francis pressed his call for Sri Lankan unity and reconciliation Wednesday with a Mass in Colombo to canonize the country's first saint and a visit to the war-ravaged north to pray at a shrine revered by both Sinhalese and Tamil faithful. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

DAGUPAN CITY, Philippines – Not a raucous welcome, but one done “with all our hearts, with all our minds and with wide open arms” should greet Pope Francis when he arrives today to begin his much-awaited five-day visit, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said yesterday.

With the public now generally aware of the pope’s itinerary, the faithful should “line the streets he will take, watch the papal vehicle pass by and be blessed by the sight of the pope passing our way going around the city,” Villegas said.

“Bring out your family images of the saints and the Blessed Virgin. Bring out your Santo Niños and crucifixes. Bring out your heart in welcome!” he said.

“Every step he makes, every car ride he takes, every moment he stays with us is precious for us. Seeing him pass by is a grace. Waving our hands at him in loving welcome is an experience of a lifetime,” Villegas said.

“Watch the pope passing by, Christ is passing by. Be blessed as he passes by,” he said.

The pope, Villegas said, should feel the warm welcome of the ordinary faithful as soon as he leaves Villamor Airbase for the Apostolic Nunciature on Taft Avenue late afternoon or early this evening. His motorcade is expected to take Newport Garden to Andrews Avenue, then Airport Road-Domestic Road-Roxas Boulevard-Quirino Avenue-Leveriza intersection to Taft Avenue.

In the morning of the following day, the pope will meet President Aquino at Malacañang. Francis is expected to be driven to the Palace in a closed car. But he is expected to move around in an open jeepney popemobile in his later trips.

From the Apostolic Nunciature on Taft Avenue, his motorcade will take Quirino Avenue to Nagtahan Bridge (Mabini Bridge) then turn left to JP Laurel to the presidential palace.

After his meeting with the President and with other officials, Pope Francis will proceed to the Manila Cathedral for an 11:15 a.m. mass.

To reach the cathedral in Intramuros, his entourage will take General Solano, P. Casal-Ayala Bridge to Finance Road, Burgos Drive and Bonifacio Drive toward Anda Circle, and right to Aduana Street.

In the afternoon, the papal convoy will again pass Taft Avenue to Leveriza intersection-Quirino Avenue to Roxas Boulevard to the Mall of Asia for his meeting with families. The pope will be in Leyte on Jan. 17.

He is scheduled to meet Sunday morning with leaders of other religions as well as with the youth at the University of Santo Tomas.

To reach UST from the Apostolic Nunciature, his convoy will take Quirino Avenue toward Nagtahan, A. Lacson Avenue and España where the university’s main gate is located. He will take the same route on the way back to the Apostolic Nunciature.

In the afternoon, Francis will celebrate mass at the Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park. On his way to Rizal Park, his convoy will take Quirino Avenue, turn right to Roxas Boulevard and enter Rizal Park through TM Kalaw.

On the day of his return to Rome, Francis will be driven to Villamor Airbase via Leveriza-Quirino Avenue, Roxas Boulevard, Domestic Road and Andrews Avenue.

100-percent ready

Villegas said that while they are ready for the pope’s visit, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church might spring some “surprises” that may require some security adjustments.

“There is no such thing as 100 percent prepared because Pope Francis is a ‘Pope of Surprises’ so you have to prepare for his surprises,” he said.

“But humanly speaking everything that we must do we have actually done. We are praying and we are asking the people to pray that in the end this is not just a state visit,” he added.

“This is not just a visit of the pope. This is a spiritual renewal for the Filipino people and the goal is revival of the faith that is the most important factor,” he pointed out.

Pope Francis would be bringing with him a 32-man delegation.

Once they disembark from the papal plane, five more would be added to the papal party – Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Papal Nuncio Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto and his two secretaries, and Villegas himself.

To welcome Pope Francis on his arrival, aside from President Aquino, are senior prelates led by CBCP vice president Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles.

Villegas said Pope Pius Center on United Nations Avenue can only accommodate 100 people. Some of the bishops would have to be taken in by convents. There are about 120 active Filipino bishops.

Some Asian bishops are traveling to the Philippines to join in the mass for the bishops and the religious at the Manila Cathedral.

Among those expected to show up is the new cardinal from Myanmar. Also expected are cardinals from South Korea and Kazakhstan. They would be billeted at the Diamond Hotel along with members of the Vatican media.

Villegas emphasized that the Asian bishops would pay for their hotel accommodations and that the CBCP would only take care of their food.

Meanwhile, Vice President Jejomar Binay called on Filipinos to follow the example of Francis in spreading Christ’s message of love and charity.

In his message on the arrival of the Roman Pontiff, the Vice President said he hopes the nation will heed the pope’s call “for renewing our commitment to the universal values of love and compassion for the poor and downtrodden.”

“To all Filipinos, it is my hope that we will be inspired by the living example of the pope, who has willingly connected with the people to get across Christ’s message of love and charity,” Binay said.

He also voiced his wish that his fellow workers in government may be inspired to provide selfless service to the people, no matter their own circumstances, without thought of reward.

“We must devote our time, talents, energy and resources on truly serving the people, particularly those who most need our help,” Binay said.

Even suspected pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles has expressed excitement over the papal visit.

“It will really be a blessed day (on Thursday) since the pope will be arriving exactly on my birthday,” she said in an interview after her appearance at the Sandiganbayan’s Third Division yesterday afternoon.

Napoles, who was in yellow shirt printed with the image of Pope Francis, said she is also praying for the pope’s safety during his visit.

Asked what she would want to wish from the pope if given the chance, Napoles only said, “secret.” She said she had long surrendered herself “and whatever will be the outcome of the hearings in this case” to God.

She added she would definitely watch the coverage of the papal visit on TV if possible.

As for her birthday wish, Napoles said she wants a healthier and longer life. Helen Flores, Rhodina Villanueva


PHILSTAR

Muslim groups support Pope Francis’ visit, call for peace By Jose Rodel Clapano (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 15, 2015 - 12:00am 3 1 googleplus0 0


Pope Francis frees a dove in Madhu, Sri Lanka, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015. Pope Francis traveled to the jungles of war-torn northern Sri Lanka on Wednesday to show solidarity with the victims of the country's 25-year civil war and urge forgiveness and reconciliation "for all the evil which this land has known." (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, Pool)

MANILA, Philippines - Muslim groups have expressed solidarity with Pope Francis in his call for peace, hoping that his words could inspire the country’s leaders to support the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that is seen to ensure peace and sustainable development in Mindanao.

The Young Moro Professionals Network (YMPN) chaired by Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman said that like the Catholic faithful, they are looking forward to the papal visit starting today until Jan. 19.

Usman explained that Pope Francis’ words and actions could influence people, starting with the youth, to help build a culture of sustainable peace in the country.

“Pope Francis has visited many countries with the call for peace, interfaith dialogue, religious tolerance and unity, which are cherished values in Islam,” she said.

“May his compassion and peace-building efforts across religions, including Islam, inspire our leaders to do what’s best for our people, who have the right to live in peace,” she added.

Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy president Amina Rasul shared that view. She said Muslims in the Philippines should welcome the arrival of the pope, “considering that we are in the last chapters of the peace process with the Moro lslamic Liberation Front (MILF).”

“Pope Francis’ call for peoples of all faiths to respect each other’s religions and come together as a global community should resonate among the diverse peoples of Mindanao,” Rasul added.

MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar reportedly said that the MILF would send representatives, headed by Sheikh Abu Hurairah Abdulrahman Udasan, grand mufti of the Darul Ifta (Islamic House of Opinion), to pay their respects to Pope Francis during his visit.

Al-Rashid Jama, chair of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society-Western Mindanao chapter, also hopes that the pope will speak about the Mindanao peace process, specifically about the BBL, which is pending before Congress.

“We hope the pope’s visit will be followed by the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law in March. It will be a historic law that aims to unite all Filipinos in reaching for our shared dream for peace and economic development,” added Alexander Mama-o, president of the Filipino Alliance for Integrity and Reform.

‘Pope a likely key to solving global problems’

With all the support that Pope Francis is receiving, retired chief justice Reynato Puno said the pontiff could be key to solving the worsening problems of the world.

Puno – now head of the Protestant group Philippine Bible Society and one of 10 religious leaders who will meet the pope at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) on Sunday – cited the pope’s global influence as head of over a billion Catholic faithful.

“The pope is a servant leader who can really contribute to the mitigation of the worsening problems of the world… He has a good grip on the etiology of these worldwide problems of non-stop violation of human rights, stubborn poverty, scandalous corruption, ruling elites that overreach with greed, indifference to people down in the dumps, increasing terrorism, climate change, etc.,” Puno noted.

“I am sure Pope Francis will be happier if our response to his call as a sower of God’s words is less by preparing for his physical comfort but more by preparing our hearts and cultivating minds to assure that God’s words will not keep falling on barren ground. Our problem as a Christian nation has always been less knowing what to do with God’s words but in doing it,” the magistrate stressed.

Puno is one of 10 religious leaders and resource persons of the Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, evangelical, orthodox and Catholic traditions given the opportunity to meet the pope at UST. – With Edu Punay


MANILA BULLETIN

Pope taking PH by storm Arrives today for four-day Pastoral visit by Raymund F. Antonio & Christina L. Hermoso January 15, 2015 Share this:

POPE FRANCIS IS LITERALLY TAKING THE PHILIPPINES BY STORM.


IN SRI LANKA REACHING OUT – Pope Francis extends his right arm out of the pope mobile to interact with the crowd that met him at the canonization mass of Joseph Vas at Galle Face Green in Colombo, Sri Lanka yesterday. This impulse to reach out to the faithful will most likely be duplicated many times over when the Holy Pontiff arrives today in the country for a five-day State and Apostolic Visit. (EPA)

Fifteen days into the new year, Pope Francis, the person next to Christ in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, is arriving at dusk today after a seven-hour flight from Sri Lanka for a four-day pastoral visit to mingle and comfort his flock wracked by conflict, tragedy, and calamity and bring Christ’s blessing of hope, peace, mercy, and compassion.

At least 10 Catholic prelates will welcome Pope Francis, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said. Among them is CBCP vice president Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao.

But not even the threat of a potential storm (see weather story on this spread) raining on the Pontiff’s visit in Tacloban City could dampen the enthusiasm and excitement of people wanting to see him in person, or just catch a glimpse of His Holiness.

Francis, the 266th successor of Peter, is the third Pontiff to visit the Philippines – the only Catholic nation in Asia – in 30 years as the church celebrates the “Year of the Poor.”

BE INSPIRED

Vice President Jejomar C. Binay called on Filipinos to be inspired by Pope Francis’ compassion for the poor.

The Vice President expressed hope Filipinos “will heed the Pope’s call for renewing our commitment to the universal values of love and compassion especially for the poor and downtrodden.”

“To all Filipinos, it is my hope that we will be inspired by the living example of the Pope who has willingly connected with the people to get across Christ’s message of love and charity,” Binay said in a statement.

Upon setting foot on Philippine soil, two abandoned children – Lanie Ortillo and Mark Angelo Babero – will have the distinct privilege to meet the charismatic leader of the 1.2-billion Catholics around the world and offer him a welcome garland.

Being the head of the Vatican State and Bishop of Rome , government officials led by President Aquino and church officials led by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle will be on hand to welcome the Holy Father – the ‘people’s Pope’ at the Villamor Airbase.

After arrival honors, the Holy Father will board his open popemobile for a motorcade to the welcome cheers of Filipinos excited to see in person the Vicar of Christ who, since assuming the papacy on March 13, 2013, has stirred the placid waters of tradition in the Vatican toward reform which he insists is rooted in the Bible.

The papal delegation will be composed of at least 30 individuals namely – Fernando Filoni (prefect propaganda fide); Cardinal Robert Sarah (prefect of congregation of divine worship and the sacraments); and Fr. Federico Lombardi (papal spokesman), among others.

According to a source, the papal delegation will stay at the Hotel Benilde near De La Salle University in Manila, while the Holy Father will stay at the Apostolic Nunciature on Taft Avenue.

NO-FLY ZONE

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) will strictly enforce the three nautical mile radius no-fly zone over areas of engagement of Pope Francis during his four-day visit in the country, a military spokesman said.

Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Enrico Canaya said that the PAF has committed its air assets to provide “air defense support” as part of security preparations laid down by the military for the papal visit.

Should the Pope break protocol, the government is ready with the contingency measures to protect him.

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said authorities recognize Pope Francis as “a pope of surprises” and will constantly improve security measures while he’s in the country.

POPE WITH US

“Pope Francis will be with us to bring God’s love and mercy. His presence is God’s blessing. His words are God’s comfort. His actions are God’s saving works,” Balanga Bishop Ruperto C. Santos said. Bishop Santos chairs the Committee on Transportation of the papal visit.

“Pope Francis reminds us that we are not alone in our predicaments. We are not abandoned in our sufferings. We are not forgotten during our misfortunes. God is with us in these moments. God has strengthened us and we can stand up again. Pope Francis gives us this hope. He assures us of God’s help. God will heal us and our land,” the prelate added.

For months, devout Catholics in Tacloban have been prepping for the Pope’s arrival, honored to host the head of the Roman Catholic Church, and a symbol of hope for many.

More than a year ago, this city was inundated by super-typhoon Yolanda’s storm surge, shattering many lives, destroyed homes and building, left the city’s economy in ruin but could not break the faith of the predominantly Catholic population here.

When typhoon ‘Yolanda’ brought Tacloban to its knees with death and devastation that scarred the survivors, the Holy Father was moved, and like a shepherd wanting to calm his beleaguered flock put the Philippines in his travel list and assures every Filipino he meets in the Vatican that he will be coming in January.

Inspirational speaker Michael Lobrin, during a recollection in preparation for the pope’s visit, said the main source of our excitement over the Pope’s coming is the chance to see Christ.

“The Pope is not the big star. The big star is Jesus Christ. Once the Pope comes and you do not see Jesus in him, the papal visit will not be successful. It is the Pope himself who asked for his visit to be simple and pastoral,” Lobrin said.

“Pope Francis teaches us the act of humility. We have to understand that all our life, our success or riches are just gifts from God and are temporary. God has allowed us to gain these things out of mercy and compassion,” he added.

HOPE IN POPE

They see hope in the Pope, who purposely invited himself to the Philippines to be with the lost, the least and the hopeless.

And Taclobanons, those staying here and those working abroad, are trying to return the favour they know best –the distinct Filipino hospitality.

One of those moving mountains and heavens just to be near Pope Francis is Carigara, Leyte native Elizabeth Florendo, 49, an overseas Filipino worker based in Ontario, Canada.

Florendo, who works as a household service worker, has decided to quit her job “just so I could see and be blessed by the Pope.”

Florendo had just returned to the Philippines for a short visit in June last year. Like most OFWs with stipulated contracts, her next visit to the country would take a few more years.

But when she learned that the Pope would pay a visit to her typhoon-ravaged province, she was placed in a dilemma.

Either, she stays put or quit her job. She chose the latter.

She told her employer about her desire to see the Pope. And short of a miracle, her boss understood, freed her from any obligations, and even offered to help her find a job when she returns to Canada.

“I said the Pope is coming to my homeland. My boss allowed me to go. He even told me ‘I’ll find you a new job when you return,’” Florendo said.

“I am just a lowly household worker there,” Florendo reiterates, adding that everything appeared to have fallen into its proper places “because of my intention to see the Pope. I am doing everything just to see him. It is a blessing.”

Immediately after getting the nod of her employer, Florendo scoured whatever she had, and spent $2,000 just to be home.

Home is a vacant lot in Barangay San Jose, Tacloban City.

With no more extra money to spend, and with hotels already fully-booked for the Pope’s visit anyway, Florendo plans to put up a tent in her vacant lot.

Whatever it takes just to be near the Pope – at least within seeing distance.

“I have no ID yet being given to pilgrims and devotees. But whatever happens, whatever it takes, the Pope is worth seeing.”

For Karen and Mayet, who hail from Palo, Leyte, not even the prospect of the Papal trip being postponed due to the nearing tropical depression can sway her faith, like any other pilgrims and devotees.

“As a believer, nothing is impossible. I will see the Pope and come near him,” Mayet said.

Karen is even looking to a miracle that the bad weather will spare their province and change its path because of the Pope’s arrival on January 17.

THE POPE THAT WE NEED

The Pope’s compatriot who has made the Philippines his home for two decades now said Filipinos will strike a chord with the humble pontiff.

“There are traits that I think he will identify very much with Filipinos,” Fr. Luciano Felloni, 41, the parish priest of Our Lady of Lourdes in Camarin, Caloocan, said.

“One trait is he is the son of immigrants. Many Filipinos are overseas Filipino workers. His father became a migrant worker in Argentina,” Felloni said, adding his grandparents, too, were migrant workers.

“Our Argentinian forefathers were mostly migrant workers who, because of poverty, escaped their own country to search for their luck.”

Another quality of Filipinos that would endear them to the 78-year-old Pontiff is their hospitality.

“Definitely, the hospitality. Filipinos are the best when it comes to welcoming. He will definitely feel their hospitality from his arrival on the plane until he leaves. Filipinos know how to give a warm welcome,” Felloni added.

The 41-year-old priest who speaks nearly flawless Tagalog and Ilocano, too was a seminarian in Buenos Aires when he first met Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the simple, approachable parish priest who gives everyone his full attention.

“It’s about time we had a Pope like him. God is never late. Always on time. Each time He gives us a Pope that we need,” Felloni said.

The people closest to the Pope’s heart, according to Felloni are the poor, the youth and the elderly.

“He would hold mass in the squatters’ area around the Jesuits compound every Saturday and Sunday,” Felloni added.

“He gives very simple, down-to-earth sermons you wouldn’t think he has a doctorate in literature and philosophy. He does not talk in complicated terms. His words are easily understood. Very straight to the point and frank.”

Felloni recounted a remark made by Pope Francis in front of nuns: “You should emulate mothers and not old maids.” By that, then Bishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio meant that they should be taking care of people as if they were their own children, Felloni shared.

Felloni said he feels blessed to be among those who will concelebrate the Mass with Pope Francis at the Manila Cathedral Thursday.

“I feel very blessed and I hope I get the opportunity to talk to him in person,” he beamed. “I want to tell him ‘thank you’ because I feel that he is doing a big thing for the Universal church. He has opened the mind, heart and door of the Church.”

PEOPLE’S POPE

Meanwhile, residents living near the Apostolic Nunciature where Pope Francis will stay during his four-day apostolic visit to the Philippines have been swept with nostalgia of Pope Saint John Paul II as they re-lived the moments of ‘95 a day before the arrival to the country of the so-called “People’s pope.”

Behind the Apostolic Nunciature where rows of residential houses are located, men and women are huddled as they remembered the nights when John Paul would regularly wave to the people camping out along Taft Avenue in Manila exactly 20 years and two days ago.

“During those cold nights, we felt the warmth of John Paul as he waved from his balcony,” 38-year-old Pearl Beraquit recalled. “I was filled with mixed emotions because I was blessed to see the Pope who was closest to God.”

Beraquit, who was then18-years-old when she saw John Paul by the balcony of the Apostolic Nunciature, described the atmosphere of ‘95 as festive, as groups of people, majority of whom were in their 20’s and early 30’s, brought their streamers, candles and guitars as they sang gospel songs, as if they were serenading John Paul.

Others, on the other hand, lighted their candles and pulled out their rosaries as they started their respective prayer vigils.

Beraquit kept rewinding the moments when she saw the blessed Pope in her mind as her four siblings and parents prayed for God’s providence and blessings.

“Words cannot exactly describe the atmosphere during those nights when you stake out along Taft Avenue and wait for the Pope to wave at the crowd and bless them. He would stay on the balcony for 15 minutes and I felt that those were the longest 15 minutes of my life,” Beraquit said. (With reports from Leslie Ann G. Aquino, Elena L. Aben, Genalyn D. Kabiling, Madel Sabater Namit, JC Bello Ruiz, and Leonard D. Postrado)


MANILA STANDARD EDITORIAL

Waiting for Francis By Manila Standard Today | Jan. 15, 2015 at 12:01am

When the plane carrying Pope Francis touches down on the Manila runway, and when he drives through our streets and sees the millions trying to get a glimpse of him, he would get an idea of how much this predominantly Catholic nation has looked forward to his visit.

And when the Supreme Pontiff goes to the typhoon-battered province island of Leyte and breaks bread with the survivors of the typhoon, hearing their stories and comforting them in their grief,he would have an idea of the comfort his presence would lend.

Pope Francis has visited several countries in his nearly two-year stint as head of the Catholic Church, but he just may be surprised at the fervor with which Filipinos are greeting him today.

It’s religion, of course. Francis is the human face of the Church to which millions of Filipinos belong. Amid the tribulations of Catholics’ individual lives, and in meeting the challenges of the future, the faithful can only do just that—have faith.

But it’s more than religion, too. It’s something that transcends possession of a baptismal certificate from a Catholic church. This pope is also seen as one who is humble, simple and accessible despite the authority and respect that his position demands.

The pope’s demeanor and leadership are truly inspiring to a nation that has had enough of officials who profess to be one thing and act otherwise.

Despite our warm welcome and extensive preparations, it will be a weighed-down nation that will greet Pope Francis today. We are plagued with ills that have made us cling to faith more than believe in our own capacity to change the course of our future.

Amid the activities surrounding the visit of the pope, Filipinos must continue to deal with social and political issues—poverty, crime, high prices of goods, lack of opportunities, corruption and hypocrisy among officials, among others—that have for now been conveniently set aside but would no doubt surface again once the pontiff leaves early next week.

These ills have left the poor with little option to improve their lot and consigned them to helplessness.

“Mercy and compassion” is the theme of the papal visit. It is an apt and timely theme. We would be more concerned, however, that mercy and compassion not just occasion powerful—but fleeting—feelings of unity among the rest of us.

Let mercy and compassion trigger sustained action aimed at closing the income gap and providing options for the marginalized. Only then can we claim that the Pope’s visit has left a profound impact on our nation.


TRIBUNE EDITORIAL

People’s Pope meets pa-epals ('EPALS' PINOY LINGO FOR MEDIA HOUNDS) Written by Tribune Editorial Thursday, 15 January 2015 00:00

The frenzy has started even before Pope Francis lands in Manila today and the “pa-epal” activities are expected to compete with the official papal itinerary.

Epal is of course Tagalog slang for media hounds who will exploit the global coverage of Pope Francis to get their mugs within the television frame for the longest time possible.

Noynoy said the epals should choose another occasion to spend their energy and spare the Pope’s visit from their craving for publicity.

The jostling to be part of the Malacañang guest list during the welcome ceremony and courtesy call on the morning of Jan. 16 is well known.

The list remains hidden in the pocket of Palace mouthpiece Sonny Coloma for the apparent reason that it is packed with Aquino clan members and political allies.

Noynoy is also grabbing every opportunity to be seen with the pontiff from the landing of his plane up to maybe his departure from the country.

The meeting of dignitaries is usually not one of the functions of Noynoy since this is usually reserved for the Vice President or the Secretary of Foreign Affairs or other Cabinet heads to represent the President, although official state welcomes and honors are usually done in the Palace grounds.

The more prominent and oft-repeated names to meet with Pope Francis are the presidential sisters whose presence even overshadows the meeting of the head of the Catholic Church with the victims of typhoon “Yolanda” in Tacloban City.

Upon the Pope’s arrival at around 5:45 p.m., Noynoy will immediately be at the tarmac along with the 12 Cabinet officials to meet him.

Also, it appears that the Pope has a better appreciation of the sentiments of the Yolanda victims than Noynoy, who had skipped Tacloban City during the anniversary of the tragedy wrought by the strongest typhoon that hit the planet in recent history.

The Pope had indicated his wish to condole personally with the survivors. The Visayas region was also rocked by a strong earthquake last year when several historic churches were destroyed.

After the earthquake destroyed many ancient churches in the provinces of Bohol and Cebu, the Pope sent the original statue of Our Lady of Fatima to the disaster area for Filipinos to pray to avert future disasters. According to the Vatican, the original statue has in its crown the bullet that almost killed then Pope and now St. John Paul II.

Other “epal” moments are the police and other officials in the preparations committee who seem to be competing for media attention in putting out statements which are not exactly according to plan.

One police superintendent said that the Pope will be bundled inside a bullet-proof vehicle while the open Pope mobile follows in the convoy for the pontiff to ride the vehicle if he changes his mind.
The Vatican already said that the Pope will ride the open Pope mobile to commune with the people.

The papal visit will definitely stretch the resources and skills of the country’s security forces particularly during the mass at the Rizal Park on Sunday when an expected 6 million people at the least will converge.

But these are the few times that the lethargic intelligence of the local police and the military are put to a stress test.

The media hogs throughout the papal visit are also expected to put their best feet forward to get these entangled with the Pope’s frock and have them seen in his company throughout the papal visit.

And who best to symbolize the pa-epals but Noynoy who will be constantly be in the company of the Pope whether the pontiff liked it or not.

To illustrate some netizens’ noticing the itinerary of the Pope when Noynoy is expected to play altar boy, it was said that the Vatican had cancelled the courtesy call with Noynoy in Malacañang and instead he would head straight to Tacloban City to devote an additional day with the typhoon victims who still suffer from government neglect.

It was said that the Pope told Noynoy to just meet him at Tacloban City.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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